Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Holiday Air Travel: Laws and Information for Travelers Who are Blind or Have Low Vision

Before packing those bags for air travel, some information about laws, as well as pointers, can be helpful to the traveler who is visually impaired. A number of laws apply to travel on airplanes, including specific provisions related to trips taken by people who are blind or have low vision as well as those with other disabilities. While in the airport, the building in which it is housed is governed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Security is handled by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) or Homeland Security regulations. As soon as a passenger arrives on the airplane, travel is under the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and governed by the Air Carrier Access Act. This legislation, according to the DOT, “prohibits discrimination based on disability in air travel.” It includes “a rule defining passengers’ rights and airlines’ obligations under this law.” The rule applies to all flights of U.S. airlines and flights to and from the U.S. by foreign airlines. Following are a few of the major provisions of the Act:
– Passengers with vision or hearing impairments “must have timely access to the same information given to other passengers at the airport or on the plane,” in terms of gate assignments, flight delays, etc.
– Airlines must permit service animals to accompany passengers in the cabin as long as they don’t block the aisle or other “emergency evacuation routes.” If the animal is blocking the route, the passenger is allowed to move with the animal to another seat, if available.
– A person “may not be refused transportation based on disability or be required to have an attendant or produce a medical certificate, except in certain limited circumstances…”

To learn more about the provisions of the law, read the DOT webpage About the Air Carrier Access Act. The APH (American Printing House for the Blind) Connect Center website includes additional information on regulations related to Air Travel.

The “Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights”

Fundamental rights of air travelers with disabilities are described in the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights outlines specific rights, including: being treated with dignity and respect; receiving information about services and aircraft capabilities and limitations; accessibility in airport facilities, aircraft features, and information provided; receiving assistance, if needed, at airports and on the aircraft; traveling with an assistive device or service animal; seating accommodations; and the resolution of a disability-related issue. Additional information and details about each of the rights specified are available on the DOT webpage covering the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights.